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Passage of T-SPLOST in July Would Create Millions in Revenue for Bibb County Improvements

by Amanda Smith

Cliffard Whitby, Monica Smith and Dan Slagle

Bibb County residents will have the opportunity to vote for the T-SPLOST on July 31, 2012 as the state of Georgia gears up for billions of dollars of revenue expected to be generated through passage of the referendum.

The passage of the Transportation Act of 2010 provided for the state of Georgia to be divided into 12 regional districts that will each vote for the addition of a 1% sales tax to be collected for transportation improvements in each region. This means that, if passed, residents will pay 1 cent more for every dollar they spend, resulting in the collection of millions of dollars in the middle Georgia area to make these improvements. If passed throughout the state, as much as $19 billion in revenue could be collected over the next ten years while connecting communities, reducing congestion and improving road safety. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 billion spent on roads and bridges generates up to $2.5 billion in direct and indirect economic activity. "Middle Georgia is strategically located in the state and in the Southeast," said Cliffard Whitby, Chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority. "These transportation projects will create over 23,000 jobs and in addition, allow us to be competitive in recruiting more business to our area," he continued. "We were able to bring Tractor Supply Co. to Macon because of our location near the port of Savannah and the interstate system."

A regional roundtable was selected that includes Macon Mayor Robert Reichert as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the roundtable. This roundtable proposed a list of special projects by working with the public and the Georgia Department of Transportation; this project list was finalized and approved on October 15, 2011. If passed, a citizen’s accountability committee in this region will ensure that the projects are completed on time and within budget.

The Middle Georgia Regional Commission's membership includes 11 counties and 22 cities that would benefit from passage of the T-SPLOST; the counties included are Bibb; Monroe; Crawford; Peach; Houston; Pulaski; Twiggs; Wilkinson; Baldwin; Jones and Putnam. The regional value on the total list of projects is approximately $554 million and many projects use matching federal and state dollars which increases the total impact to over a billion dollars; 75% of the revenue raised will go to the projects list and 25% will go to local transportation needs.

If passed in a region, the T-SPLOST will only be in effect for 10 years. No 1% tax will be collected past the ten year period unless voters approve an extension. If the referendum does not pass, a 30% match of funds is required to complete projects using state funds, a significantly more expensive endeavor.

"A good transportation system brings visitors and their dollars to our city and region and visitor's spending helps to pay for the projects," said Monica Smith, President/CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Co-Chair of Connect Middle Georgia. "Safer roads benefit everyone on a day to day basis and improve our quality of life and the quality of our destination."

Some of the improvement projects for Bibb County include:
- I-75 and I-16 interchange improvements
- Widening of Jeffersonville Road and Millerfield Road in East Macon
- Intersection improvements and widening on Bass Road from I-75 to Riverside Drive
- Houston Road widening from Sardis Church and North Walden Roads to South Walden Road
- Middle Georgia Regional Airport Runway 5/23 Extension
- Norfolk Southern Track Improvements in Bibb and Monroe counties

Regional improvements would include widening Highway 96 in Houston, Peach and Twiggs counties; the Gray bypass; Highway 247 improvements; and improvements to the Fall Line Freeway in Baldwin County

The Macon Transit Authority would receive funding for buses and vehicles as well as a maintenance facility and bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks would be constructed in various areas of the county.

"What's great about the TSPLOST is that it's local," said Dan Slagle, Co-Chair of Connect Middle Georgia (with Monica Smith). "Every penny raised in Middle Georgia will be spent here, with local oversight of locally chosen transportation projects," he continued. "It's important to vote Yes on Referendum 1 so our community can grow and prosper."